Toyota/Save Mart 350 fantasy NASCAR preview

by C.J. Radune on June 19, 2008 @ 07:44:08 PDT


Infineon Raceway

Infineon Raceway is one of two road courses on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule. Drivers known as "road course ringers" due to their skill and experience on road courses regularly make appearances at these two tracks. A few of those names are Ron Fellows, who will be driving the No. 01 Chevrolet for DEI's Regan Smith; Scott Pruett replaces Chip Ganassi Racing driver Reed Sorenson in the No. 41 Dodge, and Boris Said will attempt to qualify for his first points race this season.

A unique feature at Infineon is the track's changes in elevation. The upper loop - Turns 2 through 4 - is a very technical part of the track that leads to the free-flowing "s" section in a fast run through Turn 10. It leads to the final hairpin turn, which is a prime passing spot. As far as the setup, drivers want a balanced car that can turn in both directions. The course requires a lot of shifting, so the car's transmission is a major concern. Passing is difficult, so qualifying and track position is extremely important. Pit strategy is usually planned in advance, and pit stops are not necessarily dictated by cautions.

Location: Sonoma, Calif.

Length: 1.99 miles

Shape: 12-turn road course

Laps: 110

Banking: 0 degrees

Table: Do not bench

Kyle Busch Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Jimmie Johnson Tony Stewart
Matt Kenseth Jeff Gordon
Kevin Harvick Denny Hamlin
Carl Edwards Jeff Burton

Leading the pack

Kurt Busch | No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge | Penske Racing
Busch isn't universally known as a road-course specialist, but he has qualified very well at Infineon in the past. In his last six starts at the track his qualifying average is 5.2. His average finish hasn't lived up to his starts, but he does have three top-five finishes in those six starts. If Busch is on his game in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 he could finish in the top five. He has shown that he has the speed to win at the track, leading 60 laps in his career, but he needs to avoid trouble and keep the car handling well until the end.

Ryan Newman | No. 12 Alltel Dodge | Penske Racing
Newman has been a stout competitor in his last six starts at Infineon. His average finish in those starts is 9.8 on the strength of two top-fives and four top-10s. Newman is another driver that is not universally recognized as a road-course specialist. He has more of an oval pedigree, but he has found some limited success making right turns as well. Only two of Newman's six finishes at Infineon have been outside the top 10, and one came last year in the Toyota/Save Mart 350, where he finished 20th. Newman is an oval regular who can run with the best on a road course and would be a good choice for this weekend's race.

Juan Pablo Montoya | No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge | Chip Ganassi Racing
Montoya won his first Sprint Cup race at Infineon last year in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 in what was his first start at the track. He started the race 32nd and only led seven of the 110 laps. Montoya a former Formula One driver, is a master of road courses and can literally win from almost anywhere in the starting grid. He is aggressive and knows how to shift the balance of the car to get the most grip through every type of turn. Montoya should be blazing a trail to the front of the field at Infineon for this weekend's race.

Greg Biffle | No. 16 3M Ford | Roush Fenway Racing
Biffle's two best results at Infineon came in his last two attempts, when he finished in fourth and fifth place. In five career starts at the track his average finish is 14.6. By the numbers, one can see that Biffle has shown improvement over time at Infineon. In the 2003 Dodge/Save Mart 350, which was his first attempt at Infineon, he finished 37th after running out of fuel, but since that race he has a ninth-place average finish. Biffle has had a strong string of results since the Dodge Challenger 500, and he could be a contender for a top-five or top-10 finish in the Toyota/Save Mart 350.

Robby Gordon | No. 7 Robby Gordon Motorsports Dodge | Robby Gordon Motorsports
Gordon is considered somewhat of a road-course ringer and won the 2003 Dodge/Save Mart 350 at Infineon. Except for that win Gordon has not had very good results at the track. His best finish other than that win was 11th place in the 2002 Dodge/Save Mart 350. His average finish in the last four starts since his '03 victory is 26.5. In the 2007 Toyota/Save Mart 350 Gordon led 48 of 110 laps, but he had to settle for a 16th-place result for the second time in three years. Gordon can never be discounted at a road course, though he will need to avoid contact with his aggressive driving style if he is to have success this weekend.

Drivers to keep an eye on

Boris Said | No. 160 7-Eleven Slurpee/No Fear Ford | No Fear Racing
In eight races at the California road course, Said has four top-10 finishes. He even started from pole in the 2003 Dodge/Save Mart 350. He has driven three different engine makes at the track and has finished in the top 10 with each at least once. Said can drive anything at Infineon and be competitive. Fantasy owners shouldn't be worried that Said has yet to race in a Cup Series points race this season. Prior to his ninth-place result at Infineon in 2006, Said had not competed in a points race, and in 2007, Said raced only twice before posting his second consecutive ninth-place finish in the Toyota/Save Mart 350. Said is a road-course specialist and should be highly considered for any fantasy lineup.

Ron Fellows | No. 01 DEI/Principal Financial Group | Dale Earnhardt Inc.
Fellows is replacing Regan Smith in the No. 01 car for the Toyota/Save Mart 350. Fellows is fresh off the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where he finished 14th overall and second in class. He is one of the most versatile road racers in the world and is often called to moonlight in the various NASCAR divisions when they visit road courses. Fellows has started six times at Infineon in a Cup car, and he has two top-10 results in those starts. In 2007, he finished 15th in the Toyota/Save Mart 350. Without question, Fellows is a solid choice for any fantasy lineup at Infineon.

Elliott Sadler | No. 19 Stanley Tools Dodge | Gillett Evernham Motorsports
Sadler has been pretty decent at Infineon. In his last six starts at the road course, he has had four top-10 finishes. He is also coming off his third top-10 of the 2008 season, which came in the LifeLock 400. Sadler hasn't had the success of teammate Kasey Kahne, but some of Kahne's progress with setups might be starting to find its way to Sadler's team. Sadler's statistics at Infineon indicate that the team may be able to put together its first back-to-back top-10 results of the year. This season hasn't been one where Sadler has led the list of fantasy options, but he could be a solid choice for some owners in the Toyota/Save Mart 350.

Clint Bowyer | No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing
What had started off as a great season for Bowyer has recently turned into a nightmare. After picking up seven straight top-10 finishes following the UAW-Dodge 400, which included one win and two other top-fives, Bowyer has had six straight races without a finish better than 15th. However, Bowyer's luck could change in the Toyota/Save Mart 350. In his last start at Infineon, he managed a fourth-place finish. In his only other start at Infineon, he managed a 16th-place result after starting 28th. If Bowyer can turn around his bad streak, he could be in line for a top-10 finish.

Jamie McMurray | No. 26 Crown Royal Ford | Roush Fenway Racing
McMurray has qualified in the front row in each of his last two starts at Infineon. Unfortunately, neither of those qualifying efforts resulted in a finish better than 18th, which was in the 2006 Dodge/Save Mart 350. In the 2007 Toyota/Save Mart 350 he led 30 laps after starting from pole. His best finish at Infineon was a second-place result in 2004. While McMurray hasn't been finishing well in 2008 he might be able to pull out a top-10 finish in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 with a good qualifying effort. In his five career starts at Infineon, he has just the one top-five finish.

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About C.J. Radune

Radune has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.

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